Mikhail Metzel via RIA Novosti/AP

Putin Eyeing Precision Conventional Weapons as Nuclear Substitutes

Advanced conventional weapons are emerging as an “equal” to atomic arms in their capacity to ward off aggression, underlining a need for Moscow to bolster its focus on their development, Russian President Vladimir Putin told senior officials in comments released last week.

Putin’s remarks — issued to a Kremlin gathering on the preparation of “long-range high-precision weapons” — might partly refer to conventional “hypersonic” arms under development in Russia as a response to a “prompt global strike” capability sought by the United States. However, the government-released transcript does not specifically identify which weapons he believes are in need of “an added boost” in development efforts by Moscow.

High-precision weapons are becoming an increasingly important factor in non-nuclear deterrence, and perhaps even one of the most decisive factors,” Putin said in a meeting transcript published last Friday.

The degree of precision and power of today’s high-precision weapons makes them essentially an alternative to nuclear weapons,” he continued. “In some of their parameters they are quite simply equal to nuclear weapons in their effectiveness.”

A future long-range, rapid-strike capability has been seen by some in the United States as a partial alternative to nuclear weapons for hitting important time-sensitive targets. The capability sought by Washington could allow U.S. forces to conduct a non-nuclear strike against any location in the world in one hour or less.

In July, a deputy Russian defense minister suggested that his nation’s military would not begin to receive hypersonic delivery systems — a possible analogue to the U.S. prompt global strike technology — until 2018 at the earliest.

In Friday’s transcript, though, Putin said his nation had already started supplying its military with the “high-precision weapons” under discussion.

Friday’s exchange came on the heels of transcripts released earlier in the week from Kremlin meetings that addressed land, sea and air-based elements of the Russian nuclear deterrent.